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How many hours a day do you put in?  Now think about how productive those hours actually are.  Do you spend 80% of your time in a frenzy trying to chase down information, return emails and deal with papers?  Do you run so ragged that by the time you get home, you are absolutely exhausted with nothing to show for it?  Let’s look at how you can be more productive by working smarter, not harder.  Here are 7 things you can start doing right now that will help preserve your company’s most important asset – you!

1. Less email & more phone – The telephone can actually be quite productive to get a new task started, delegated or organized.  Once things have been decided or more concretely laid out, then use email to communicate with a larger group on direction.  Not sure if you’re using email too much?  Here’s a test — if your email chain goes beyond two replies, it’s time to pick up the phone.

2. Designate times to handle email – Select just two or three times a day to check email and let your colleagues and clients know that if they have an urgent issue, they can call.  During your designated email checking time, handle each email by replying, delegating, filing or deleting emails right after you open them.

 3. Designate days for meetings – Allow people to schedule you for meetings for just 2 or 3 days of the week.  Leave the rest of the weekdays open so you can focus on your core work tasks that give you the most return on the investment.  If you do accept a meeting, make sure you have a real skin in the game.  If you are just interested to keep informed or find out what happened, ask to receive the meeting notes or talk to a colleague for 5 minutes later on to get caught up.

4. Take physical breaks – Get up and out of your chair or walk around the building. The more you sit for one long stretch at a time, the more fatigued your brain is, so it takes you longer to complete tasks.  Your health is ultimately the most important.  If you suffer a heart attack or have chronic pain related to overworking yourself and being sedentary, you will be 0% productive.

5. Prioritize your to-do list – Prioritize your to-do list from highest to lowest priority, and aim to start working on, or finish your highest priority item before lunch.  This is your most productive core work time.  Save lower priority tasks for later in the day.

6. Limit multi-tasking – Multi-tasking can actually sap productivity.  Rather than focus on the highest priority thing and get it done, you’re trying to finish all your tasks at once.  While you may temporarily feel a rush of excitement and accomplishment, when you get into work the next day, you still won’t be able to cross of that highest priority item off your list.

7. Disconnect from technology – Recharge your own batteries by locking up your smartphone and disconnecting from social media.  These are major productivity time sinks, and unless you regularly disconnect, you’ll be wasting hours a day searching online for random things, playing games and interacting with buddies on Facebook.  Instead, grab a friend and go out for a bite to eat.

What works for you?  Share your tips below for being productive at work!